Class of 2015


 

Three Release methods were used in 2015: Group One – Aircraft-Guided Migration, Group Two – Direct Autumn Release and for the first time, Group Three – Parent-Reared whooping cranes were released.

Group Four includes any wild-hatched whooping cranes produced in the flock.

Group One – Ultralight-guided Whooping cranes
1-15 2-15 6-15 8-15 10-15 11-15

Died Oct ’16

Group Two – Direct Autumn Release (DAR) Whooping Cranes
61-15 62-15 63-15 64-15 65-15 66-15

Dead Sep ’17

Died Dec ’16

Pres Dead ’17

67-15 68-15
Group Three are Parent-Reared Whooping cranes.

As the name implies, they have been raised at the captive breeding centers (in enclosures) by their parents. This is the second year this release method has been used.

PR14-15 PR20-15
   
Group Four – Wild hatched chicks

A record 24 chicks hatched from 37 nests in 2015 but predation of chicks was high. While three survived to fledge, only two survived to migrate south.

W10-15
W18-15 

Crane #1-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 3, 2015
Legbands: Left: green/white Right: double red

 

Personality and Training: Chick #1 hatched from an egg removed from the first nest of #7-07, #39-07 DAR and shipped to Patuxent WRC in Maryland.

All the chicks liked to swim in their special pool because it was so hot in Maryland. It was good exercise for keeping their fast-growing legs strong and straight.

The oldest in the class, she became a dominate bird. When she first socialized together with #2 and #3, she pecked the two other birds whenever they tried to get near whichever footbath she was guarding for her own use.

Later she did much more foraging than guarding the footbath, but she often paced along the fence. By mid June, #1-15 was just great. She followed the trike well, and had become calm and sweet.

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

Here’s Crane #1 on July 7, stretching her wings as the costume opens the gate for a training session. Those black primary feathers will help her be a good flier.

Young # 1-15 showed dominant behavior to one of the visiting adult whoopers on the training grounds on July 22. What do you imagine she’s saying? The colts are growing and gaining the skills to be airborne behind the trike very soon! They are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff.

“We also have early morning visitors,” tells Joe. “As soon as they hear the engine approaching, sub-adult Whooping cranes #4-12 and #3-14 fly in to see what is going on.” Here, one of the young cranes chases off the older one!

Photo: Deb Potts

By mid August all six young Whooping Cranes were airborne! By the third week in August they were flying for over 20 minutes at a time, doing really well as a group. To keep them busy during their non-flying hours in the large pen, the team put chunks of watermelon in the pen for the young birds to peck at and play with. They loved it!

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date was set for September 20th! But it didn’t happen because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well—as usual.

Delays: They were fogged in on the new target date of September 26th and again Sep. 27. The winds were wrong on the 28th and 29th. The team works hard to think of fun things to keep the cranes from being too bored. 

This photo shows #1, #2 and a third young crane attacking a sunflower for the seeds to eat!

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. The Journey South is underway!

Crane #1 is the oldest bird and developed her adult voice way earlier than normal. Being more vocal has elevated her in the dominance structure. Keep an eye on her!

Exercise day on November 2 was a welcome relief after days of being penned due to un-flyable weather. The next possible day to fly didn’t come until November 7, Day 39.

Nov. 7: Crane #1 is getting an attitude. On their first fly day in 12 days, she surprised pilot Joe when she threat postured the aircraft! She turned away from it, and the other four followed her—right back into their pen! All but Crane #2 had to be boxed and driven 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois.

Nov. 8: On this fly-day, the team decided to box up #1 and not let her fly with the group. Being more vocal has elevated her in the dominance structure and she has started to challenge the aircraft with aggressive threat posturing. She traveled in a crate by road.

Nov. 9: On the third fly-day in a row, all six took off and flew to Piatt County, Illinois!

Nov. 20: The cranes finally got to fly again after a long weather delay in Piatt County. Cranes #1 and #2 challenged the pilot for lead position in today’s mischief. The birds and planes completed six flights in November.

Here’s #1, honking in flight!

Dec. 15: The cranes crossed into Alabama. Winston county of the first of three stops in this state.

Dec. 18: An attempt to advance on Dec. 18 was turned back in very rough air. They had only three flights in the whole month of December because of undependable weather.

The persistent south winds have delayed the migration many days. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28th. The weather wasn’t flyable for the cranes and planes until January 3rd!

January, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges. They flew on January 3, 11, 13 and 14. Crane #1 was often challenged for lead position by Crane #2—who was crated and driven more than once, to avoid aerial battles or turnbacks.

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Here the crew prepares to open the crates about a half mile from the release pensite at Florida’s St. Marks NWR. Some of the crew will escort the birds to their new home. It’s a strange ending for 15 years of ultralight-led fall migrations.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

Crane #1 was banded with her lifetime colors and tracking transmitter on Feb. 9. She is one of three wearing the new GSM tracking units.

Tracking the young cranes helps the experts know their location and indicate their condition. Operation migration raised money for 3 new GSM/CTT units for the 2015 cohort. GSM units have different technology than the PTT units, which rely on the Argos NASA Satellite to capture information as satellites passed overhead. Three of the Class of 2015 have GSM units, which have been active since Feb. 8. “The quality of information is SO much better,” explains Operation Migration’s Heather Ray. For more, this link explains what the GSM/CTT units are and how they work. 

This is a screengrab taken February 12, showing the red dots (satellite hits) for crane #1-15. “You can tell that as of Wednesday, Feb. 12, she was still in the top-netted section of the release pen,” explains Heather:

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

Spring 2016: First Unaided Spring Migration North

The remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes (#1-15, #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15) departed St. Marks NWR at 10:05 a.m. March 30 for their first journey north! (Their flock mate #2-15 left March 22 with four older whoopers from St. Marks leading the way.) They covered just over 200 miles on the first day, roosting in Elmore County, Alabama. This site is within 30 miles of the Lowndes County, AL location where they stopped on their fall migration south.

Thunderstorms in the area kept them there on April 1 but in the next two days they covered close to 400 miles, reaching Henderson County, Kentucky on April 3 (map). They continued northward April 4 and made it to Gibson County, Indiana. On April 6 they reached Putnam County, Illinois and by April 10 they were in Bureau County, Illinois. Rain and north winds are keeping them in the area. On April 15 a satellite hit for #10-15 placed her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! She (and very likely the other four traveling companions—including #1-15) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pen site that night. Once home, they soon began the spring wanderings normal for juveniles during their first summer home. Female #1-15 hung out in Columbia County, WI.,but then moved around in Columbia County, WI and then later in a great location in Rock County, Wisconsin, where she remained for the summer and early fall.

Fall 2016: Sad news came after mid October when DNR pilot Mike Callahan spotted the carcass of female # 1-15 in Rock County, WI.

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Crane #2-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 5, 2015
Legbands: Left: green/white Right: white/red

Personality and Training: Chick #2 hatched from an egg removed from the nest of #27-06 DAR and #26-09.

At first she was a real homebody and did not want to leave her safe, familiar run. She was a “crybaby” on her first tours outsides to see the water, the foot baths and pen, peeping in alarm most of the time. Some days she would not even follow Brooke to the field to try. She had a short attention span and was easily distracted by moving grass or leaves fluttering down from the trees. Keeping her focused on the trike was a challenge and training her took more time than the other birds. By May 31 she was like a different bird, running to the circle pen, eager for the training session. She began to calm down and do really well! By migration time in September, she was a leader!

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

Here’s Crane #2-15 on July 4, first in line as the young chicks flapped, hopped and ran after the wingless aircraft in their first days of “Flight School.”

By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high-speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff. One day #2-15 was airborne for an extra 2 or 3 minutes after the others got their exercise flying from one end to the other!

“We also have early morning visitors,” tells Joe. “As soon as they hear the engine approaching, sub-adult Whooping cranes #4-12 and #3-14 fly in to see what is going on.” 

Here, one of the young cranes chases off the older one! Photo: Deb Potts

By mid August all six young Whooping Cranes were airborne! By the third week in August they were flying for over 20 minutes at a time, doing really well as a group.

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date has been set for September 20th.

Crane #2-15 has become one of the group leaders. “She is often first out of the gate and inevitably the first to find the sweet spot of the wing,” notes pilot Joe Duff. “Lately she is getting comfortable in the air and has started challenging the aircraft by speeding ahead and taking the lead. I have had to leave the others behind several times to chase her and re-assert the dominance of the aircraft as leader of the flight. Once she gets tired she will tuck behind the wing again, while we wait for the others to catch up. Before long though, she is back out front. She has grown into a fine, strong bird, eager to fly and test the limits of her ability and our authority. She is still my favorite.”

September 9, 2015 Photo: Heather Ray

Delays: The departure didn’t happen on September 20th because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well—as usual. They were fogged in on the new target date of September 26th and again Sep. 27.

In the meantime, the team works hard to think of fun things to keep the cranes from being too bored. 

This photo shows #1, #2 and a third young crane attacking a sunflower for the seeds to eat!

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. Crane #2 was second in line and then they all came in.

Sep. 30: Migration Begins!

The Journey South is underway: Good luck, dear cranes!

October 25, 2015: Day 26 of the migration brought the flight into the first stop in Illinois but Crane #2 made the last five miles in a crate. Why? Leading the way, she disrupted the flight with her usual tricks of changing positions and mixing up the other birds. But when she tried the end of the line, she got tired and dropped out. Once on the ground with Brooke and his plane, she seemed panicked and stayed so close to Brooke’s aircraft that he had to push her away just to taxi. She cried constantly until he took off again. But she stayed so low that she had a brush with a powerline and scraped her beak. Brooke landed again and she made the remainder of the trip in a crate. Luckily, her injuries are very superficial and it all ended well, with the other five birds locked onto Joe’s wing to a good flight and safe landing.

November 7, 2015: Day 39 of the migration started with #2-15 being boxed up and withheld from flying with her group. The pilots suspected she was distracting the rest of the cohort and the others would fly better without #2’s shenanigans. She peeped and protested in the crate, and the other five birds seemed bothered that she was missing. They refused to cooperate and pilot Brooke finally landed with them to regroup. That’s when they let #2-15 out and tried another takeoff. In the end, Crane #2 was the only bird to fly the entire 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois!

Nov. 8: Crane #2-15 was taken out of the cohort to fly alone with Joe and get a lesson in who’s in charge. Joe said, “When #2 pulls her antics and tries to lead the aircraft, there is not much you can do.” He used the flight to Livingston County, IL to challenge and teach her. At first she was desperate to get with her flock mates flying with Brooke, but as Joe led her farther ahead, she settled in—and seemed to get the point to let the aircraft lead.

Nov. 9, 20, 22: Nov. 9 was the third fly-day in a row! All six took off together and flew to Piatt County, Illinois. They were grounded there by wind or weather delays until Nov. 20, when #1 and #2 challenged each other for the lead. They flew again Nov. 22, and also Nov. 24 when they entered Kentucky.

Dec. 15: The cranes crossed into Winston county, Alabama. The first of three stops in this state.

Dec. 18: An attempt to advance on Dec. 18 was turned back in very rough air. They had only three flights in the whole month of December because of undependable weather.

The persistent south winds have delayed the migration many days. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28th. The weather wasn’t flyable for the cranes and planes until January 3rd!

January, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges. They flew on January 3, 11, 13th, 14th and 24th. Crane #2 often challenged #1 for lead position, or peeled off and took other cranes with her. To avoid this aerial warfare, she was crated several times, including Jan. 14th and 24th, in hopes of giving the other five a chance for a smoother flight. She has missed some of the “mental map” that would guide her return migration, so the team is hoping she will behave and fly the rest of the route with them. She was back in the air with her cohort for the January 30th flight over the border into Florida! One flight to go, and everyone hopes she is part of it!

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. This photo journey lets you go along on the final day. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

The young cranes were banded with tracking transmitters and their lifetime color codes on Feb. 9. Crane #2 is one of the two cranes wearing a PTT for tracking.

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom. Crane #2-15 was the last one to come out of the pen.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

How long will they stay on the wintering grounds? Stay tuned!

Spring 2016: First Unaided Migration North

Juvenile #2-15 began heading north March 22 with four older Whoopers (#5-12, #4-13, #4-14 and #7-14) from St. Marks NWR leading the way! Will she stay with them, and will it be long enough to pass the migration legs she made in a box? A March 22 PTT hit showed her over Henry County, Alabama—just over 100 miles from the St. Marks winter release enclosure in Florida. The group soon separated and #2-15 traveled with female #7-14 for a time, but then split off on her own—which she is fond of doing! She veered into eastern Indiana for several days. However, as of March 31, her GPS points put her in Iroquois Co, IL, back on the right course (hooray!). She next flew to Jasper County, Indiana, where she stayed put in lovely wetlands but adverse migration weather for about two weeks. She left Jasper County, IN on the morning of April 13 and flew to Boone County, Illinois. On April 16 she had reached Washington County, WISCONSIN. On April 17 a PTT hit for female #2-15 placed her northeast of the Wisconsin rectangle in Door County, Wisconsin. She was there until the third week in May, when she found her way back to a lovely wetland in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. By June she had wandered to in McHenry County, Illinois, where Jeff Fox of OM took this photo:

Female whooping crane 2-15 in Walworth County, WI

She returned to Wisconsin and spent the rest of the summer and early fall in Walworth County.

Fall 2016: Female #2-15 left Walworth County, Wisconsin on migration between Dec. 6 and 11. She was officially the first HY2015 crane to return to the winter pen location at St. Marks NWR in Wakulla County, FL. However, older cranes #4-13 and #8-14 promptly chased her away. She then retreated north to south Georgia. In late January she returned to the pensite at St. Marks but again the older cranes chased her away from “their” territory—so she’s back in Georgia.

Spring 2017: Leaving Georgia, female #2-15 appeared to have made a brief trip to St. Marks NWR in the Florida panhandle the morning of Feb. 17 before heading north. Her next satellite data hit was Lee Co., Alabama on Feb. 19. By the end of February she was in Jasper Co, IN and met PR #71-16 when they both chose the exact same stopover site. She left Jasper Co, IN and was with female #28-05 DAR in Marathon County, Wisconsin by March 19th. In a surprising turn of events, these two females were seen sitting on a nest in Marathon Co. when Wisconsin DNR pilot Beverly Paulan spotted them on May 12! This is anomalous behavior and the only plausible explanations the team has been able to come up with are: One of the genders is inaccurate, OR  they’re incubating infertile/un-viable eggs, OR a nearby bachelor male paid a visit. Bev will continue to monitor the nests as time permits to see how they progress. 

Unfortunately, when checked in late May only egg shells were found so it’s difficult to determine if the eggs were viable.

Fall 2017: WCEP decided to release two young male Parent-Reared cranes with this pair in September. By the middle of October, it appears that the two females have taken the two younger birds under their wing and have been seen foraging with them and flying off to roost in the nearby marsh with them. Time will tell but the team is hopeful this will be a successful “adoption” and the two older cranes will lead the two younger cranes to a suitable location for the winter.

Parent-Reared whooping cranes 19-17 & 25-17 with the two older cranes. Photo: Hillary Thompson, International Crane Foundation

These two adult cranes (2-15 and 28-05) did adopt the two Parent-Reared chicks! By November 30 they had lead them on a southward migration and were in northeast Alabama.

 

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Crane #6-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 10, 2015
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: green/white

Personality and Training:

Chick #6-15 was the mean girl during her days at at Patuxent WRC, noted handler Colleen. “It will be interesting to see if she keeps the dominate position or as they get older another crane puts her in her place.”

She was an independent girl from the start, and good at training.

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

Here’s #6-15 taking grapes from the costume during her first days in Wisconsin.

#6-15 accepts a grape from the puppet.

By July 22 the young colts were not yet flying well, but that could change any day! Here is #6-15, surveying the landscape, still showing many of her rusty-color chick feathers.

By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff.

Whooping cranes can grow up to one inch each day. Photo: Deb Potts

“We also have early morning visitors,” tells Joe. “As soon as they hear the engine approaching. Sub-adult Whooping cranes #4-12 and #3-14 fly in to see what is going on.”

By mid August all six young Whooping Cranes were airborne! By the third week in August they were flying for over 20 minutes at a time, doing really well as a group. 

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date was set for September 20th! But it didn’t happen because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well— as usual.

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Delay: The departure didn’t happen on September 20th because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well—as usual. They were fogged in on the new target date of September 26th and again Sep. 27.

In the meantime, the team works hard to think of fun things to keep the cranes from being too bored.

They have fun attacking a sunflower for the seeds to eat!

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. Crane #11-15 was first in, crossing the threshold as if it were everyday stuff. Crane #2-15 was next and then they all came in. The Journey South is underway!

Nov. 7: Crane #6-15 took off well as usual, but turned back with four of the other birds to land at the pen. All five then refused to take off again and were boxed and driven the entire 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois. Only #2-15 completed the flight.

Nov. 8: Crane #6-15 completed the flight to Livingston County, IL with four flock mates flying with Brooke’s plane.

Nov. 9, 20, 22: Nov. 9 was the third fly-day in a row! All six took off together and flew to Piatt County, Illinois. They were grounded there by wind or weather delays until flying again Nov. 20. They also flew Nov. 22, reaching the final stop (Wayne County) in the long state of Illinois.

Persistent south winds delayed the migration many days. They took only four flights in December. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28 but weather kept them grounded until January 3rd in the new year.

January, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges after being penned so long at a stopover. They flew on January 3, 11, 13, 14, 24 and 30 (when they crossed the border into Florida). The longest ultralight-led migration is finally near an end.

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. This photo journey lets you go along on the final day. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

Crane #6-15 was banded with her lifetime colors and tracking transmitter on Feb. 9. She is one of three wearing the new GSM tracking units.

Whooping crane #6-15 shows off her new legbands.

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom. Crane #6-15 was first to come out of the pen.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

Spring 2016: First Unaided Migration North

The remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes (#1-15, #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15) departed St. Marks NWR at 10:05 a.m. March 30 for their first journey north! (Their flock mate #2-15 left March 22 with four older whoopers from St. Marks leading the way.) They covered just over 200 miles on the first day, roosting in Elmore County, Alabama. This site is within 30 miles of the Lowndes County, AL location where they stopped on their fall migration south. Thunderstorms in the area them there on April 1 but in the next two days they covered close to 400 miles, reaching Henderson County, Kentucky on April 3.

They continued northward April 4 and made it to Gibson County, Indiana. On April 6 they reached Putnam County, Illinois, and by April 10 they were in Bureau County, Illinois. Rain and north winds are keeping them in the area. On April 15 a satellite hit for #10-15 placed her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! It appears that she (and very likely the other four traveling companions—including #6-15) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pen site that night!

Once home, they soon began the spring wanderings normal for juveniles. Cranes #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15 were in Marquette County, WI before flying off.

Google Earth map of this group’s May travels.

They went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back to Wisconsin, where the foursome split up. On July 1, female #6-15 was observed in Winnebago County, WI as her wandering continued.

Fall 2016: Female #6-15 spent early December in Greene County, IN associating with #38-09 DAR. The two then moved to wintering grounds at Wheeler NWR in Morgan Co, AL by the end of December.

Spring 2017: Female #6-15 spent the winter at Wheeler NWR in northern Alabama and her remote device hits indicate she and crane #38-09 DAR moved north to Greene County, Indiana over the weekend of Feb. 18-19. This young crane was confirmed back in Wisconsin – In Juneau County by DNR pilot Bev Paulan.

Unfortunately, in late August this crane’s GSM device had stopped working so she can now be tracked only by her VHF radio device.

She was spotted on Necedah Refuge by Bev Paulan on October 23rd and she was with male 16-04. We’ll have to wait and see if this newly formed pair produces offspring in 2018.

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Crane #8-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 10, 2015
Legbands: Left: white/red Right: green/white

Personality and Training:

Chick #8 hatched at Maryland’s Patuxent WRC from an egg removed from the first nest of #3-04 and #9-03 in Wisconsin. She is a calm bird, good follower and very cute. She is happy and joyful on walks. She skips along with her wings spread—although she can slow the group down and be a forager (along with #2). 

Here she’s enjoying a moment of calm.

Female #8-15 has a full sibling: #W18-15 hatched from the second nest of the same parents that laid the egg with #8-15.

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

Here’s Crane #8 on July 6, showing off the developing feathers that will soon make her a good flier!

Photo: Doug Pellerin

By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff.

“We also have early morning visitors,” tells Joe. “As soon as they hear the engine approaching, sub-adult Whooping cranes #4-12 and #3-14 fly in to see what is going on.”

By mid August all six young Whooping Cranes were airborne! By the third week in August they were flying for over 20 minutes at a time, doing really well as a group.

Ready! By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date was set for September 20th.

The expected departure didn’t happen Sep. 20th because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well— as usual.

 

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. Crane #11 was first in, crossing the threshold as if it were everyday stuff. Crane #2 was next and then they all came in. The Journey South is underway!

Oct. 14: On the second leg of the migration, cranes #8-15 and #11-15 got discouraged in a layer of turbulent air and the pilots couldn’t keep them with the aircraft. They were crated and driven to Stop #2 after two attempts.

Photo: Doug Pellerin

Nov. 2: Exercise day on November 2 was a welcome relief after days of being penned due to un-flyable weather.

Nov. 7: The next possible day to fly didn’t come until November 7, Day 39. None of the birds except #2 would cooperate with the pilots. Crane #8 and the four others who wouldn’t stay with the plane were boxed and driven the 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois as #2-15 completed the flight alone.

Nov. 8: Today #8 and four of the others (#1 was boxed) flew the 55 miles to Livingston County, Illinois.

Nov. 9, 20, 22: Nov. 9 was the third fly-day in a row! All six took off together and flew to Piatt County, Illinois. They were grounded there by wind or weather delays until flying again Nov. 20. They also flew Nov. 22, reaching the final stop (Wayne County) in the long state of Illinois.

Persistent south winds delayed the migration many days. They took only four flights in December. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28 but weather kept them grounded until January 3rd in the new year.

January, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges. They flew on January 3, 11, 13, 14, 24 and 30 (when they crossed the border into Florida). The longest ultralight-led migration is finally near an end.

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. This photo journey lets you go along on the final day. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

Crane #8-15 was banded with her lifetime colors and tracking transmitter on Feb. 9. She is one of three cranes wearing the new GSM tracking units.

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

Spring 2016: First Unaided Migration North

The remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes (#1-15, #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15) departed St. Marks NWR at 10:05 a.m. March 30 for their first journey north! (Their flock mate #2-15 left March 22 with four older whoopers from St. Marks leading the way.) They covered just over 200 miles on the first day, roosting in Elmore County, Alabama. This site is within 30 miles of the Lowndes County, AL location where they stopped on their fall migration south. Thunderstorms in the area kept them there on April 1 but in the next two days they covered close to 400 miles, reaching Henderson County, Kentucky on April 3. They continued northward April 4 and made it to Gibson County, Indiana. On April 6 they reached Putnam County, Illinois, and by April 10 they were in Bureau County, Illinois. Rain and north winds are keeping them in the area. On April 15 a satellite hit for #10-15 placed her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! It appears that she (and very likely the other four traveling companions—including #8-15) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pen site that night! 

Once home, they soon began the spring wanderings normal for juveniles. Cranes #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15 were in Marquette County, WI before flying off. They went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back to Wisconsin, where the foursome split up. On July 1, female #8-15 was in Calumet County, WI and stayed there all summer.

Fall 2016: She relocated from Wisconsin’s Calumet County to Winnebago County in mid September, where she was seen with several Sandhill cranes. She left on migration on Dec. 8. By Dec. 12 she was in Brown County, IN and by Dec. 20 in Sumter County, AL, where she remained. 

Fall 2016 #8-15 is in the company of Sandhill cranes.

Spring 2017 – Female #8-15 spent all of March in Sumter County, AL. It appears she began migrating north on April 2nd.

Summer 2017 – Sadly, in late August #8-15 was recovered beneath a powerline in Fond du Lac County, WI where she had spent the summer since returning north from Alabama. 

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Crane #10-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: May 10, 2015
Legbands: Left: white/green Right:  white/red

Personality and Training:

Chick #10 was handler Colleen’s favorite at Patuxent WRC, and she described her as adorable. Colleen wrote: “Brooke let me name her when she was a little tiny thing and doing the engine on/off training. At first she was terrified and cowered in my lap for this training.

To encourage her, I knelt down and spread the costume flat on the ground between my knees. When Brooke started the engine, the chick could run into my lap if she was scared. So, I named her Chicken Little. She was still the scared one. When Brooke leaves the pen or the Sandhill cranes give their alarm call, she melts down and tries to climb the fence.”

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

“Flight school” begins! Here’s Crane #10 (white legband) on July 7, following her flock mates down the training strip as the trike races in the lead.

Here’s #10 chasing behind the aircraft trike during training on July 22. The young Whooping crane colts are not yet flying very well, but that could change any day now!

Photo: Deb Potts

By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff.

“We also have early morning visitors,” tells Joe. “As soon as they hear the engine approaching, sub-adult Whooping cranes #4-12 and #3-14 fly in to see what is going on.”

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. Crane #11 was first in, crossing the threshold as if it were everyday stuff. Crane #2 was next and then they all came in. The Journey South is underway!

Nov. 7: After 12 days of no migrating, the next possible day to fly didn’t come until November 7, Day 39. None of the birds except #2 would cooperate with the pilots. Crane #10 and the four others who wouldn’t stay with the plane were boxed and driven the 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois as #2 completed the flight without her flock mates.

During periods of no progress due to poor weather, the cranes are let out for exercise. Photo: H. Ray, Operation Migration

Nov. 8: Today #10 and four of the others (#1 was boxed) flew the 55 miles to Livingston County, Illinois.

Nov. 9, 20, 22: Nov. 9 was the third fly-day in a row! All six took off together and flew to Piatt County, Illinois. They were grounded there by wind or weather delays until flying again Nov. 20. They also flew Nov. 22, reaching the final stop (Wayne County) in the long state of Illinois.

Persistent south winds delayed the migration many days. They took only four flights in December. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28 but weather kept them grounded until January 3rd in the new year.

January, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges. They flew on January 3, 11, 13, 14, 24 and 30 (when they crossed the border into Florida). The longest ultralight-led migration is finally near an end.

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. This photo journey lets you go along on the final day. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

The young cranes were banded with tracking transmitters and their lifetime color codes on Feb. 9. Crane #10 is one of two cranes wearing a PTT for tracking.

Female 10-15 with her new legbands and PTT tracking device.

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

Spring 2016: First Unaided Migration North

The remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes (#1-15, #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15) departed St. Marks NWR at 10:05 a.m. March 30 for their first journey north! (Their flock mate #2-15 left March 22 with four older whoopers from St. Marks leading the way.) They covered just over 200 miles on the first day, roosting in Elmore County, Alabama. This site is within 30 miles of the Lowndes County, AL location where they stopped on their fall migration south. Thunderstorms in the area kept them there on April 1 but in the next two days they covered close to 400 miles, reaching Henderson County, Kentucky on April 3. They continued northward April 4 and made it to Gibson County, Indiana. On April 6 they reached Putnam County, Illinois, and by April 10 they were in Bureau County, Illinois. Rain and north winds are keeping them in the area. On April 15 a satellite hit for #10-15 placed her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! It appears that she (and very likely the other four she traveled with) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pen site that night!

Once home, they soon began the spring wanderings normal for juveniles. Cranes #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15 were in Marquette County, WI before flying off. They went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back to Wisconsin, where the foursome split up.

On July 1, female #10-15 and male #11-15 were together in LaSalle County, IL. In late July the two moved to Dane County, WI, where (between wanderings) they spent the summer. Later they moved to Outagamie County and then to Winnebago County.

Fall 2016: By October 22, female #10-15, along with male #11-15, was in LaSalle County, Illinois and by November 25 she (most likely still with #11-15) was in Obion County, Tennessee. They continued migration to Wheeler NWR in Morgan County, Alabama, where they remained for the winter.  

Spring 2017: Female #10-15, still with male #11-15, began migration from Wheeler NWR, AL and the two were seen in Lasalle County, IL by the end of February. They returned on March 26 and on April 2nd were seen in flight in Green Lake County, Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, this pair split up and the female #10-15 paired with older male #4-13 who had lost his mate #8-14 on their spring migration. 

Fall 2017 – Female #10-15 and #4-13 have remained together throughout the summer and as of the end of October they seem to have established a territory very near to White River Marsh. Very early this fall they even visited the pensite a couple of times and spent about 30 minutes with the Costume-Reared cohort in a nearby field recently.

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Crane #11-15

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: May 11, 2015
Legbands: Left: red/white/green Right: green/white

Personality and Training:

The youngest and the only male in the group, #11 was hatched from an egg removed from the nest of #29-09 and #12-03.

Always gentle, he was a great little bird from the start. He has always loved and followed the costume. At Patuxent WRC in Maryland, he was one of the three chicks who often paced along the fence. Maybe he’ll be one of the best fliers!

July 2 was arrival day in Wisconsin for the six young cinnamon-colored Whooping cranes. None of the birds showed any signs of stress from their airplane trip-in-a-box from Maryland where they hatched. They happily explored their new surroundings for “Flight School.”

Here’s Crane #11 obediently following the trike down the grass training strip soon after arrival with his flock mates in Wisconsin. By mid July all six of the young birds were able to fly a few feet off the ground.

By the end of July, the colts are strong enough to fly close to the surface but not yet able to climb. “So our daily exercising consists of a high speed taxi down the length of the runway while the birds fly beside us,” explains pilot Joe Duff.

By mid August all six young Whooping Cranes were airborne! By the third week in August they were flying for over 20 minutes at a time, doing really well as a group.

Ready: By September, Operation Migration pilots reported that all six birds are doing incredibly well—a big contrast to last year’s cohort at this time. They said, “No doubt about it, this cohort is ready to migrate!” The target departure date was set for September 20th, weather permitting. But it didn’t happen because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well— as usual.

Delays: The departure didn’t happen on September 20th because crops still covered the fields where the first stopover sites would be! The cranes continued to train on good-weather days, performing well—as usual. They were fogged in on the new target date of September 26th and again Sep. 27.

Sep. 30: Migration Begins! Pilots call these birds the Super Six because they are such great followers—not a rebel or maverick among them this year. They easily flew the five miles to the first stopover and landed right next to the trike. They all stood at attention, heads up, eyes wide and moved closer to the aircraft as the only thing familiar in a strange new environment. The plane taxied close to the travel pen and the birds stopped chasing grasshoppers to obediently go inside. Crane #11 was first in, crossing the threshold as if it were everyday stuff. Crane #2 was next and then they all came in. The Journey South is underway!

Oct. 14: On the second leg of the migration, cranes #11-15 and #2-15 got discouraged in a layer of turbulent air and the pilots couldn’t keep them with the aircraft. They were crated and driven to Stop #2 after two attempts.

Nov. 7: After 12 days of no migrating, the next possible day to fly didn’t come until November 7, Day 39. None of the birds except #2 would cooperate with the pilots. Crane #11 and the four others who wouldn’t stay with the plane were boxed and driven the 57 miles to LaSalle County, Illinois as #2 completed the flight without her flock mates.

Nov. 8: Today #11 and four of the others (#1 was boxed) flew the 55 miles to Livingston County, Illinois.

Nov. 9, 20, 22: Nov. 9 was the third fly-day in a row! All six took off together and flew to Piatt County, Illinois. They were grounded there by wind or weather delays until flying again Nov. 20. They also flew Nov. 22, reaching the final stop (Wayne County) in the long state of Illinois.

December: Persistent south winds delayed the migration many days. They took only four flights in December. The team took a week off for the holiday break and returned Dec. 28 but weather kept them grounded until January 3rd in the new year.

The Class of 2015. Photo: H. Ray, Operation Migration.

January 3, 2016: Migration continued, slowed by weather delays and crane behavior challenges.

Jan. 11: Today, #11 was having a harder and harder time keeping up with Brooke’s plane and the other five cranes. Pilot Joe skillfully swooped in to pick him up while Brooke continued with the other five. The little fellow finally landed. So did Joe, and the tracking van soon arrived to crate #11 to finish today’s trip by road.

They flew again on January 13, 14, 24 and 30 (when they crossed the border into Florida). The longest ultralight-led migration is finally near an end.

February 6, 2016: The migration came to a strange ending on Feb. 6, 2016. Instead of being guided the final 24 miles to their new winter home by aircraft, the Class of 2015 arrived in crates. With no decent weather ahead and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, the team felt it was the best decision. This photo journey lets you go along on the final day. They will be supervised from a distance by pilot Brooke Pennypacker until they take off on their first unaided migration north this spring.

Project leader Joe Duff assures us that being trucked this short distance will not hamper their ability to navigate back to Wisconsin in the spring. The Class of 2015 is the final cohort to be taught their migration route by costumed pilots in tiny yellow airplanes.

The young cranes were banded with tracking transmitters and their lifetime color codes on Feb. 9.

February 14 was FREEDOM DAY, when their costumed caretakers pulled open the gates to the top-netted pen and released the birds to freedom.

The birds can now come and go from the enclosure, learning to forage for their own food as they become wild and free.

Spring 2016: First Unaided Migration North

The remaining five juvenile Whooping cranes (#1-15, #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15) departed St. Marks NWR at 10:05 a.m. March 30 for their first journey north! (Their flock mate #2-15 left March 22 with four older whoopers from St. Marks leading the way.) They covered just over 200 miles on the first day, roosting in Elmore County, Alabama. This site is within 30 miles of the Lowndes County, AL location where they stopped on their fall migration south. Thunderstorms in the area kept them there on April 1 but in the next two days they covered close to 400 miles, reaching Henderson County, Kentucky on April 3. They continued northward April 4 and made it to Gibson County, Indiana. On April 6 they reached Putnam County, Illinois, and by April 10 they were in Bureau County, Illinois. Rain and north winds are keeping them in the area. On April 15 a satellite hit for #10-15 placed her in Green Lake County, Wisconsin! It appears that she (and very likely the other four traveling companions—including #11-15) roosted approximately 5 miles from their former pen site that night! 

Once home, they soon began the spring wanderings normal for juveniles. Cranes #6-15, #8-15, #10-15 and #11-15 were in Marquette County, WI before flying off. (See Google Earth map of this group’s May travels.) They went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back to Wisconsin, where the foursome split up. On July 1, male #11-15 and female #10-15 were together in LaSalle County, IL. The two moved to Dane County, WI in late July, where they spent the summer (between wanderings).

Fall 2016: By October 22, male #11-15, along with female #10-15, was in LaSalle County, Illinois. It was assumed that he was with her when she was seen in Obion Co, Tennessee, by November 25. They continued migration to Wheeler NWR in Morgan County, Alabama, where they remained for the winter.

Spring 2017: Male #11-15, still with female #10-15, began migration from Wheeler NWR, AL and the two were seen in LaSalle Co, IL by the end of February.  On April 2, cranes #10-15 and #11-15 were seen in flight in flight in Green Lake County, WI. When the female was stolen away by another male, #11-15 returned to LaSalle County, Illinois. However, he was spotted back in Wisconsin on May 17, this time in the New London area.

Photo: Pat Fisher

Shortly after, this young bachelor male turned up with “Peanut” #4-14 and the two have been traveling around the Wisconsin Rectangle all summer.

Fall 2017 – #11-15 is still buddies with #4-14 (Peanut) and on October 28th, Joe Duff and Heather Ray found these two in the same field as Parent Reared chick #26-17!

Two males: 11-15 & 4-14 land very close to Parent-Reared female chick #26-17 in Marquette County, WI. Photo: H. Ray, Operation Migration

It will be interesting to see if a bond develops and which male crane this young female will choose! It’s very likely this young Parent-Reared chick migrated south with these two males! Her GSM tracking device places her in Gibson County, Indiana and we’re waiting to get eyes on her to determine if she is with #4-14 and #11-15.

 

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Group Two – Direct Autumn Release Cranes

Crane #61-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 25, 2015
Legbands: Left: red/white Right: white/green

Personality and Training:

The eldest of the cohort, DAR #61-15, is named Mendota—after the largest of the four lakes surrounding Madison. Good-natured and small-framed all through chick-dom, Mendota was often picked on by the younger, larger chicks but isn’t afraid to stand her ground as second in command.

She was banded October 21. On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11 DAR. Now we just need them to stay with the adult and migrate!

Fall 2015: On Dec 19, Crane #61-15 DAR, (with DAR flock mates #62-15, #63-15, and #67-15) departed from Horicon NWR without following adult Whooping Cranes or sandhills. They headed south. They stayed in McHenry County, Illinois for 10 days, then continued south and eventually southwest to the border of Randolph County, Illinois and Sainte Genevieve County, Missouri.

Spring 2016: As of March 31, DAR cranes #61-15, #62-15, #63-15, and #67-15 were still located together in Randolph Co, IL. but since then this foursome moved east and then north into Saginaw County, Michigan, followed next by a move to St. Claire, County, MI. In mid April, Operation Migration’s Joe Duff and Heather Ray, en route from homes in Ontario to Wisconsin, stopped to check on the four DAR cranes. Then in Genesee County, Michigan, the cranes looked healthy and were gobbling waste corn from a field.

The 4 wayward cranes in Michigan

We hope that these four will retrace their flight, and get on the west side of Lake Michigan and back to the core reintroduction area with the rest of the flock.

The four wayward DAR cranes did indeed arrive home in Marquette County, Wisconsin, the first week in May—but they had to be captured and transported back from Michigan on May 5. Moving them back to Wisconsin, everyone hoped, would reorient them and give them a better chance of finding mates in the future. Their telemetry data indicated they moved southeast to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, where they were released last fall. Welcome home!

But wait! The wandering foursome of DAR kids then appeared to follow the Mississippi river until they arrived back at their wintering location in Randolph County, IL – by May 27. There they remained!

Fall 2016: DAR cranes #61-15(F), #62-15(M), #63-15(M), and #67-15(F) remained at their wintering area in Randolph County, IL, where they also spent the summer after a brief spring return to Wisconsin. On Dec. 18, #61-15 and #67 went south into southwestern Missouri and western Tennessee after #62-15 died after striking a power line. By the end of December the two returned again to the wintering grounds in Randolph County and rejoined #63-15, who never left.

Spring 2017: The three pals (DAR #61-15, DAR #63-15 and DAR #67-15) returned to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin the first week in April! Will they stay? They were still there as of May 23.

Fall 2017 – Sadly, the remains of 61-15 DAR were collected by ICF’s Hillary Thompson in early October just west of Horicon Refuge. She had been dead for quite some time, so we will likely never know the cause of death but predation is very likely.

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Crane #62-15

Gender: Male
Hatch Date:  June 26, 2015
Legbands: Left: white/red Right: white/green

Personality and Training:

Flambeau (DAR #62-15) was the second to hatch, joining Mendota in the hatcher on June 26. At first, Mendota and Flambeau did not get along at all. A few months later, the pair became inseparable. Now, Flambeau is the biggest chick of the cohort. He surpassed Mendota very early on and his size asserts his position at the top of the flock!

He was banded October 21. On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11 DAR. Now we just need them to stay with the adult and migrate!

Fall 2015: On Dec 19, Crane #62-15 DAR, (with DAR flock mates #61-15, #63-15, and #67-15) departed from Horicon NWR without following adult Whooping Cranes or sandhills and headed south. They stayed in McHenry County, Illinois for 10 days, then continued south and eventually southwest to the border of Randolph Couty, Illinois and Sainte Genevieve County, Missouri.

Spring 2016: As of March 31, DAR cranes #61-15, #62-15, #63-15, and #67-15 were still located together in Randolph County, IL. but since then this foursome moved east and then north into Saginaw County, Michigan, followed next by a move to St. Claire, County, MI. In mid April, Operation Migration’s Joe Duff and Heather Ray, en route from homes in Ontario to Wisconsin, stopped to check on the four DAR cranes. Then in Genesee County, Michigan, the cranes looked healthy and were gobbling waste corn from a field. We hope that these four will retrace their flight, and get on the west side of Lake Michigan and back to the core reintroduction area with the rest of the flock.The four wayward DAR cranes did indeed arrive home in Marquette County, Wisconsin, the first week in May—but they had to be captured and transported back from Michigan on May 5. Since then, telemetry data indicated they moved southeast to Dodge County, where they were released last fall. Welcome home! But wait! On May 27 the wandering foursome of DAR kids was back at their wintering location in Randolph County, Illinois, where they remained.

Fall 2016: DAR cranes #62-15(F), #61-15(M), #63-15(M), and #67-15(F) remained at their wintering grounds in Randolph County, IL, where they also spent the summer (after a brief spring return to Wisconsin). On December 18, notification of the death of #62-15 was received from Crab Orchard NWR in southwest Illinois. From the location of the carcass, a powerline strike was suspected. 

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Crane #63-15

Gender: Male
Hatch Date: June 8, 2015
Legbands: Left: white/red/white Right: green/white

Personality and Training:

Third to hatch was Corky (DAR #63-15) on June 8. Since hatching, Corky has been eager to assert his dominance over all the younger chicks. He even had the guts to go up against his elders, Mendota and Flambeau! Even at 4 months of age, Corky and Flambeau were still frequently competing for the best roosting spot.

He was banded October 21. On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11 DAR. Now we just need them to stay with the adult and migrate!

Fall 2015: On Dec 19, Crane #63-15 DAR, (with DAR flock mates #61-15, #62-15, and #67-15) departed from Horicon NWR without following adult Whooping Cranes or sandhills and headed south. They stayed in McHenry County, Illinois for 10 days, then continued south and eventually southwest to the border of Randolph County, Illinois and Sainte Genevieve County, Missouri.

Spring 2016: As of March 31, DAR cranes #61-15, #62-15, #63-15, and #67-15 were still located together in Randolph County, IL. but since then this foursome moved east and then north into Saginaw County, Michigan, followed next by a move to St. Claire, County, MI. In mid April, Operation Migration’s Joe Duff and Heather Ray, en route from homes in Ontario to Wisconsin, stopped to check on the four DAR cranes. Then in Genesee County, Michigan, the cranes looked healthy and were gobbling waste corn from a field. We hope that these four will retrace their flight, and get on the west side of Lake Michigan and back to the core reintroduction area with the rest of the flock.

The 4 wayward cranes in Michigan

The four wayward DAR cranes did indeed arrive home in Marquette County, Wisconsin, the first week in May—but they had to be captured and transported back from Michigan on May 5. Moving them back to Wisconsin, everyone hoped, would reorient them and give them a better chance of finding mates in the future. Their telemetry data indicated they moved southeast to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, where they were released last fall. Welcome home! But wait! The wandering foursome of DAR kids then appeared to follow the Mississippi river until they arrived back at their wintering location in Randolph County, IL – by May 27. There they remained!

Fall 2016: DAR cranes #61-15(F), #62-15(M), #63-15(M), and #67-15(F) remained at their wintering area in Randolph County, IL, where they also spent the summer after a brief spring return to Wisconsin. On Dec. 18, #61-15 and #67 went south into southwestern Missouri and western Tennessee after #62-15 died after striking a power line. By the end of December the two returned again to the wintering grounds in Randolph County and rejoined #63-15, who never left.

Spring 2017: The three pals (DAR #63-15, DAR #61-15 and DAR #67-15) returned to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin the first week in April! Will they stay? They were still there as of May 23.

DAR 67-15 returned to Randolph County, IL in the middle of the summer and is still there as of the end of October. 

Fall 2017 – This male spent the entire summer the Horicon Marsh area and in late October tracker Doug Pellerin saw him with female PR 71-16. They were in a field about a 1/4 mile from Parent-Release juvenile 38-17. By mid-November, ICF’s Hillary Thompson confirmed DAR #63-15 migrated south with PR #71-16. They were in Jasper County, IN at the time Hillary located them. About a half mile away was Parent-Reared crane chick #24-17. The chick was not associating with the adults but they were so close, it’s very likely they saw each other.

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Crane #64-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 8, 2015
Legbands: Left: green/white  Right: red/green/white

Personality and Training:

As a young chick, Winnebago (DAR #64-15) , who hatched on June 8, was notorious for her love of spiderwort. None of these plants escaped her bottomless appetite and if she wasn’t tall enough to reach, she would peep louder as if the extra effort would magically teleport the spiderwort to her grasping beak. Despite her voracious appetite as a chick, Winnebago remains the smallest of this cohort and unfortunately, she is often bullied. Ironically, she has the biggest head!

She was banded October 21. On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11 DAR.

DAR #64-15 and her new leg bands

Now we just need them to stay with the adult and migrate!

Fall 2015: Female #64-15 DAR departed on migration with a large group of Sandhill cranes a few days before Nov. 24. Her signal was last heard as she traveled over Madison, WI but trackers were unable to locate her due to traffic and snow.

Spring 2016: Crane #64-15 DAR is missing, and was last seen leaving Wisconsin on fall migration. She was not reported at a winter location nor in Wisconsin since then.

Fall 2016: Crane #64-15 DAR is still missing.

She was presumed dead and removed from the population total in January 2017.

 

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Crane #65-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 8, 2015
Legbands: Left: green/white Right: red/white

Personality and Training:

Fiery and feisty, Leola (DAR #65-15), hatched on June 8 and wasn’t afraid to show everyone who’s boss. It didn’t matter if the other chicks were twice her size, Leola wouldn’t hesitate to run after them, only realizing her grave mistake too late. Fortunately for her, she was always saved in the nick of time by her watchful costumed caretakers.

She was banded October 21.

DAR #65-15 and her new leg bands.

On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with Sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11 DAR.

Fall 2015: On Dec 19, Crane #65-15 DAR, (with four DAR flockmates) departed from Horicon NWR. The group did not follow adult Whooping Cranes or Sandhills as they headed south. On Dec. 21 in McHenry County, Illinois, Crane #65-15 split off from her DAR flockmates and joined up with about 30 Sandhill cranes. She migrated with them to the Goose Pond area where several adult Whooping cranes spend winters.

Spring 2016: Crane #65-15 (DAR) had begun to travel north by end of March and had reached Kosciusko Co, IN. In the next few days she moved southwest to Carroll County, IN, likely to escape strong winds the area during that interval. Instead of veering west, it seems she went straight north. She’s been moving north and south along the coast of Lake Michigan. She eventually figured out how to get around Lake Michigan and back into Wisconsin on her own! By early June she was with Parent Reared crane #27-14 in Marathon County, WI. They remained there the rest of the summer. The two cranes spent part of September in Marathon Co, WI, but started moving around Wood Co later in the month.

Fall 2016: Female #65-15 DAR and female PR #27-14 spent the beginning of October in Wood County, WI, but moved back to Marathon County later in October. On Nov. 16, this year’s PR #70-16 (his wing healed) was released near these two older cranes, but the older pair left and were reported in Jasper County, Indiana by Nov. 25 and at Wheeler NWR in Morgan County, AL, by early December. They remained there for the winter.

Spring 2017: Female #65-15 DAR (with female PR #27-14) began migration from Wheeler NWR, by the end of February. She was in Will County, IL as of March 22nd and next reported with juvenile parent-reared female #69-16. These two were together all of April and moved around, even made a trip south to northwestern Indiana. They are currently in Fond du Lac County, WI. Hooray for #65-15 for bringing the juvenile back!

Fall 2017 – This female had moved further west over the summer and was seen by DNR Pilot Bev Paulan several times in Wood County, WI.

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Crane #66-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 11, 2015
Legbands: Left: White/green Right:  green/red

 

Fall 2017 – By mid-summer, this female had moved farther south into Dodge County, WI and a Parent-Reared chick (#24-17) was released in the same marsh. Unfortunately, they have never been seen together.

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Crane #67-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 16, 2015
Legbands: Left: double red Right:  green/white

Personality and Training:

Druid (DAR #67-15) hatched on June 16. She always has a sharp eye for opportunity. As a chick, Druid would pointedly watch her chick-mates from across the pond. The other chicks needed to watch out if they got too close to her! Her sharp eyes are also useful in other ways besides bullying her peers. She is an expert grasshopper catcher and has caught a few baby garter snakes as well.

On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and one adult whooper, #18-11. 

Fall 2015: On Nov. 25, Crane #67-15 DAR (with DAR flock mates #61-15, #62-15 and #63-15) were seen together with parent-reared female #27-14 (who successfully migrated south to Kentucky last year) but they didn’t stay with the experienced crane. They departed from Horicon NWR without following adult Whooping Cranes or sandhills and headed south. They stayed in McHenry County, Illinois for 10 days, then continued south and eventually southwest to the border of Randolph County, Illinois and Sainte Genevieve County, Missouri.

Spring 2016: As of March 31, cranes #61-15, #62-15, #63-15, and #67-15 were still located together in Randolph Co, IL. but since then this foursome moved east and then north into Saginaw County, Michigan, followed next by a move to St. Claire, County, MI. In mid April, Operation Migration’s Joe Duff and Heather Ray, en route from homes in Ontario to Wisconsin, stopped to check on the four DAR cranes. Then in Genesee County, Michigan, the cranes looked healthy and were gobbling waste corn from a field. We hope that these four will retrace their flight, and get on the west side of Lake Michigan and back to the core reintroduction area with the rest of the flock.The four wayward DAR cranes did indeed arrive home in Marquette County, Wisconsin, the first week in May—but they had to be captured and transported back from Michigan on May 5. Moving them back to Wisconsin, everyone hoped, would reorient them and give them a better chance of finding mates in the future. Their telemetry data indicated they moved southeast to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, where they were released last fall. Welcome home!But wait! The wandering foursome of DAR kids then appeared to follow the Mississippi river until they arrived back at their wintering location in Randolph County, IL – by May 27. There they remained!

Fall 2016: DAR cranes #61-15(F), #62-15(M), #63-15(M), and #67-15(F) remained at their wintering area in Randolph Co, IL, where they also spent the summer after a brief spring return to Wisconsin. On Dec. 18, #61-15 and #67-15 went south into southwestern Missouri and western Tennessee after #62-15 died after striking a power line. By the end of December the two returned again to the wintering grounds in Randolph County and rejoined #63-15, who never left.

Spring 2017: The three pals (DAR #61-15, DAR #63-15 and DAR #67-15) returned to Horicon NWR in Dodge County, Wisconsin the first week in April! Will they stay?

Nope. In May #67-15 returned (alone) to Randolph Co., IL 

Fall 2017 – Number 67-15 returned to Randolph County, IL in the middle of the summer and stayed at that location until mid-November when she flew southeast and arrived near Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. As of mid-February, she was associating regularly with seven other Whooping cranes. 

 

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Crane #68-15

Gender: Female
Hatch Date: June 16, 2015
Legbands: Left: green/white Right: green/red/green

 
Personality and Training:

Quill (DAR #68-15) is fondly called ‘Lil Quill. Beloved by all her costumed caretakers, was the last to hatch and is the youngest of the cohort. As a chick, she just wanted to make friends with all the other chicks but was—more often than not—chased away. She loves to stick close to the costumes, however, sometimes she follows TOO close! She’s also loves to dance and run laps around the ponds.

She was banded Oct. 21. On November 3 the DAR colts were not put back in the pen and were allowed to come and go as they pleased. This was their release to freedom and wildness. They soon were flying and hanging out with sandhills and adult whooper, #18-11.

Fall 2015: Crane #68-14*DAR was was spotted in a flock of about 100 Sandhill cranes at/near Horicon marsh in Dodge County, Wisconsin on Nov. 25.  Her other six Direct Autumn Release cohort mates were nearby, but were all with parent-reared female #27-14 (who successfully migrated south to Kentucky last year). DAR #68-15 was tracked in southern Wisconsin with a large group of sandhill cranes in mid December. On January 16, 2016, she was verified near Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area in Indiana.

Spring 2016: Crane #68-15 (DAR) successfully returned north to Wisconsin, where she was seen in Dunn County fairly consistently throughout summer and early fall.

Summer 2016. Photo: Anne Geraghity

Fall 2016: DAR #68-15 was still in Dunn County, Wisconsin as of Dec. 4 but then migrated to Meigs County, Tennessee. She remained Meigs or nearby Rhea County, TN for the winter.

December 2016. Photo: Robert Scott

Spring 2017: DAR #68-15 began migration north with #66-15 (F) but there have been no sightings of her since January 2017.

Fall 2017: Female 68-15 is still missing.

Spring 2018: Surprise! female #68-15 turns up in Eaton County, Michigan. On February 25th, she is photographed associating with a number of Sandhill cranes.

3 yr. old Whooping crane #68-15 in Eaton County, MI. Photo: Brenda Wineman

 

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Group Three – Parent-Reared Whooping Cranes
Learn to migrate by following their “adopted” parents

Group Three chicks are captive-born and raised in large enclosures with a pair of adult whooping cranes or “parents.” In the fall they are transported to Wisconsin and each is released near a wild crane pair in hopes the pair will “adopt” the chick and lead it on migration. 

Three chicks raised by Whooping Cranes at Patuxent National Wildlife Research Center were flown to Wisconsin and released in September near potential surrogate whooper pairs at Necedah NWR. Though there was some initial interest between the chicks and adults, none of them stayed together very long. One chick (#16-15) died before migration and two survived and migrated.

PR #14-15 (Female) Left Necedah NWR on 10/3/15, presumably with sandhills, and wintered with sandhills at Wheeler NWR in Alabama.

#14-15 is photographed at Wheeler NWR. Photo: H. Ray, Operation Migration

Spring 2016: As of April 1, 2016, female #14-15 associates with a pair of adult Whooping cranes in LaPorte County, Indiana, but unfortunately appears to be injured. She was reported March 28 with a bad limp but still able to fly at least short distance. In good news, she flew to Wisconsin and in June 2016 showed no sign of the injury. She was in Jefferson County, WI, loosely associating at times with PR #20-15, and later in the summer and early fall of 2016 still in Jefferson County, WI, along with sandhill cranes.

Fall 2016: She remained in Jefferson Co, WI throughout October and occasionally associated with PR #69-16, but did not leave on migration with the younger crane. She was in Dane County, WI in early November and moved to Jefferson County, WI after mid November. She wintered in Morgan County, Alabama. (photo below)

Photo: Michelle Miklik

PR #14-15 moved northward to Greene County, Indiana over the weekend of Feb. 18-19, 2017. She returned to Wisconsin and was in Juneau County in April 2017.

Fall 2017: This now 2 yr. old crane has been spotted by Wisconsin DNR Pilot, Bev Paulan at Necedah NWR. On October 17th aerial survey, she was with 25 Sandhill cranes.

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PR#20-15 (male) was tracked briefly in Monroe Co, Wisconsin but by early October 2015 was seen in Dubuque, IA. He was alone, very close to a heavily populated area. After it became clear he was not following sandhill cranes and did not seem to be moving from the area on his own, ICF staff captured him and released him near #14-15 in Spring Green, WI (full story here).

The day after his re-release he disappeared from Spring Green. He was alone in St. Martin County, Louisiana in January 2016. As of April 1, 2016, he was still alone in Louisiana but starting to move north.

Spring 2016: He successfully returned to Jefferson County, Wisconsin, where he was at times loosely associating with #14-15 and then moved to Walworth County, WI the rest of the summer and past mid November.

Fall 2016: By December 4, 2016, he ended up in St. Martin Parish, LA, where he wintered last year, and remained through all of February. “Who knows why he decided that’s where he wants to go” commented ICF’s Hillary Thompson, “but he seems to like it.” 

Spring/Summer 2017: He left Saint Martin Parish, LA by 18 March 18, 2017 and returned to Wisconsin, where he is currently in Adams County.

Fall 2017: 

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Group Four – Wild hatched chicks
Learn to migrate by following their parents

Their parents raise them and teach them to migrate. This is the natural way cranes learn to migrate. One day, this flock will be large enough for wild-born parents to take over. Then the flock will be considered “self-sustaining.”

A record 24 chicks hatched from 37 nests in 2015 but predation of chicks was high. Only three fledged and two survived to migrate.

W10-15 (gender unknown): 

Personality and Training:

Chick #W10-15 hatched in the wild on Necedah NWR to parents #25-09 and #2-04. The chick had good care and was one of three wild chicks to survive to fledge in late summer!

Fall 2015: W10-15 was last tracked with its parents on Necedah NWR in early November, before migration. Refuge staff were unable to capture and band this chick, which also means there was no blood drawn to determine gender.

The family left Necedah NWR and were reported for the first time on a wintering area in Kentucky on January 14, 2016. No chick was mentioned, and trackers are currently working on verifying the exact location and whether W10-15 is still with the parents.

Spring 2016: Juvenile W10-15 was photographed alone in Vernon County, Wisconsin on March 26, having already separated from parents #25-09 and #2-04, who had returned to Necedah NWR as of mid-March. This un-banded juvenile has been seen regularly in Necedah NWR.

Fall 2016: W10-15 is still unbanded and continues to associate with #24-13.

They spent most of the summer at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, moved around Juneau County throughout September and migrated together. They spent winter in Greene County, Indiana with several other Whooping Cranes.

Spring 2017: W10-15 was back in Wisconsin before April 1 and was seen alone at Necedah NWR in Juneau County.

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W18-15 (gender unknown). Hatched approximately June 2nd. 

Personality and Training:

Chick #W18-15 hatched in the wild in Juneau County, Wisconsin to parents #9-03 and #3-04. The family will migrate together, with the parents teaching #W18 the migration route.

W18-15 was still with its parents as they alternated between their summer territory at Necedah NWR and their first staging area farther south in Juneau Co. ICF staff have been working to capture and band this chick, but this family group was too elusive for the chick banding to take place.

W18-15 is photographed by Jana Lood on Aug. 25th with its parents at the Necedah refuge.

Fall 2015: Young W18-15 and her parents were spotted November 10 in a private wetland area in Wayne County, southern Illinois. A knowledgeable observer noted that if this year is like last year, the family may remain in the area as long as weather is milder and commute between there and Wheeler NWR in Alabama when winter weather becomes severe. Ths photo shows the family on their southern Illinois wintering grounds.

The family has also been seen at Wheeler NWR Alabama as the very mild winter in Illinois deteriorated to cold and snowy. 

W18-15 with parents in Wayne Co., IL. Photo: Leroy Harrison

This photo shows the family in flight in January, 2016, back again in Wayne County, Illinois.

 

Photo: Leroy Harrison

Spring 2016: On March 7 two knowledgeable observers sent news that W18-15 and parents were back in Richland Co, Illinois, saying “The journey north is definitely underway!” W18-15 was still with the parents (#9-03 and #3-04) in Wayne Co, IL as of March 21 but W18-15 successfully returned to Monroe County, WI, separated from the parents, and was hanging out with adult male #16-04 in Monroe County.

Fall 2016: W18-15 was associating with adult male #16-04 on Necedah NWR but in mid-September an un-banded crane presumed to be W18-15 was seen with its parents (39-03 and 33-04) in Juneau County. W18-15 went back to Necedah NWR the end of October and was again seen with male 16-04. W18-15 and male 16-04 were still in Juneau County, WI as of Nov. 25 but migrated in December to Knox County, Indiana with male 16-04.

Spring 2017: W18-15 and male 16-04 returned to Wisconsin and were seen at Necedah NWR by the end of March.

Fall 2017: 

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